It’s a good idea for anyone with a mental health condition to have a crisis plan at the ready, an outline for dealing with rough moments.
The best time to write a crisis plan is when you’re doing well. As you sit down and try to pull a plan together, consider what kinds of activities and services you sought out in the past during crisis situations. What and who was the most helpful? Keep these things in mind and make sure to include them in your plan.
The outline below is divided into three parts:
- How do you know you’re in crisis?
- What activities can you do to feel better?
- What should you do in case of emergency?
Copy and paste, then print out the crisis plan and read it through. Do your best to answer the questions. If you’re having problems coming up with answers, ask a loved one or provider to help you. The outline is just an example. Consider searching online for other ways to do a crisis plan.
Personal Crisis Plan
The following is a plan for dealing with difficult moments. Once you’ve gone through and answered all the questions, keep a copy for yourself and consider giving copies to your providers and loved ones. As described above, it includes three sections: recognizing when you’re in crisis, finding ways to help yourself, and an emergency section in case you need to go to the hospital.
(1) How do you know you’re in crisis?
This might seem a funny question. You’re in crisis when everything is falling apart, right? It’s not that simple. Think of painful emotion and overwhelming situations as a spectrum. There are small crises, and there are big ones, and there are a thousand grades of crises between the two. Sometimes small whirlwinds lead to bigger ones, sometimes they don’t. The trick is to catch things early, to pick up on the warning signs before the symptoms are so overwhelming you can’t move. But what are your warning signs? How do you know when you’re in crisis? Here are some common symptoms:
- Wanting to cry all the time
- Starting to withdraw from others
- Changes in sleep pattern
- Feeling hopeless and helpless
- Having problems concentrating, or making unusual mistakes
- Overwhelming emotion
- Feeling like a failure
- Loss of interest in fun things
- Feeling super irritable
- Suicidal or violent thoughts
What are your early warning signs? Jot them down in the space below.
The next time you experience any of these symptoms, intervene early before a little crisis becomes a big crisis.
(2) What activities can help you feel better?
How do you deal with difficult moments? Whether it’s a little or big crisis, the symptoms can be so overwhelming you don’t know which way to turn. No worries, you’ve got this crisis plan in hand! Next time you find yourself feeling lost, pull out this guide and consider trying one of the following ideas. However, if you’re having suicidal thoughts or experiencing psychosis, skip ahead to #3.
Try to distract yourself – Often the feelings of crisis will go away if you let a bit of time pass by. Try to DO things instead of THINK things. Consider doing the following:
- holding your hands under running water
- watching TV
- reading something funny or soothing
- listening to uplifting music
- taking a warm bath
- going for a walk
- writing in a diary
- Trying out one of these relaxation techniques.
- Playing with a pet
- Remember good memories
- Plan a trip to some place you’d like to visit
Circle any of the above activities you’d be willing to try during those rough moments. You can see a longer list of stuff to do by clicking here. Then think about other activities that have been helpful for you in the past. Write them down here:
Call someone you trust – Get in touch with someone who makes you feel better, someone who’s there when you need them. Tell that person you need some extra support. Perhaps they can talk you through your problem and help you find a different perspective. Alternatively, ask them to distract you, to share jokes and make you laugh. Is there anyone you can reach out to? List their names and phone numbers here:
Get out of the house. Get moving and go someplace that’s healthy for you. Don’t go to the bar if you want to drink! Don’t go for a hike in the woods if you’re scared of being alone! Go somewhere that’s safe and uplifting. Consider going to the movies, library, bookstore, pet store, art store, or coffee shop. Eat out at your favorite restaurant. Go to a comedy show. Maybe visit a friend. Write out a list of places you could go:
Call your provider. Reach out to your counselor or doctor. Let them know things aren’t going well. Perhaps they can talk you through the crisis or arrange an extra appointment. Your counselor can help you work on new coping skills. Your doctor can change medications, if necessary. Your case manager, if you have one, might be able to connect you with resources to help you with your problem. Make sure to include your providers’ names and numbers in your crisis plan.
(3) Emergency: reach out for help if you feel unsafe
If you’re having thoughts of suicide, if you need help urgently and NOW, call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room (ER). If you’re experiencing psychotic symptoms — hearing voices or experiencing paranoid/bizarre thoughts — call 911 or go to the nearest ER. The providers at the hospital can come up with a safety plan to help keep you safe. That might include changing your medication dosage, increased contact with your community providers, spending a few days in a crisis unit, or being hospitalized. Don’t delay. If you need help, reach out for it.
Include the following information in your crisis plan and take it to the emergency room with you:
Emergency contact person:
Health needs/medical problems:
Mental health provider names and numbers: (see above)
Primary Care Provider
That’s it: you’ve completed your crisis plan! Should you have a tough or unsafe moment in the future, pull out this outline and follow the instructions.